Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mind, Self, and Facebook: A Postmodern Sociology Part. 1

Sociologists must develop postmodern tools in order to interpret the postmodern self. Interpreting the self is problematic for contemporary sociologists. The discipline of sociology has relied on the theories of Herbert Mead and Ervin Goffman to interpret the construction of the  self. Mead’s Mind Self and Society was published in 1934 and Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life was published in 1959. The theories in these works were constructed in response to the social dilemmas of modernity[1] and therefore, are not sufficient to interpret the development of the self in postmodernity. The postmodern individual interacts with the self, the community, and the world in ways that differ from the modern era. The shift from modernity[2] to postmodernity is confusing to many sociologists. Instead of interpreting the postmodern self, sociologists condemn the postmodern self as fragmented, narcissistic, fantasy driven, empty, image driven, and superficial (E 136,138, Agger 1988). The postmodern self may be all of these, some of these, or none of these. Without the correct theoretical orientation, the interpretation of the self is difficult. Mead and Goffman’s theories provide tools to interpret the self in postmodern society, but these tools are insufficient. In this paper I posit that to interpret the postmodern self and postmodern society, sociologists must move away from the modern era’s interpretation of the self, utilize postmodern technology to reorient theories in order to address postmodern dilemmas, and utilize the tools of modern social theory, within the postmodern context.  First, I examine how modern sociological theory is similar to postmodern theory and how theorists are frustrated with postmodernity because they are still attempting to apply modern analysis to the postmodern dilemmas. Next, I suggest that sociologists should resist criticizing postmodern self construction and instead utilize the fragments of the culture, such as Facebook, to develop a “radical micro-sociology” to illuminate the unique nature of the self during the postmodern turn[3].

[1] “Sociology is usually considered an Enlightenmnet project, and outcome of the Frenchman Auguste Comte’s attempt to create a science of society that would rival the sophistication and methodologies of Newton’s physics. Comte went as far as to term sociology ‘social physics.’” (Agger 1988, 45)
[2] “The term often given to this new social order, which involved both the enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, is modernity, and the process of achieving it is termed modernization by sociologists.” (Agger 1988, 48)
[3] The phrase “postmodern turn” is taken from Best, Steven and Kellner, Douglass. 1991. Postmodern Theory. NY: The Guilford Press.

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